PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby considers Connor McDavid to be the top player in the National Hockey League.
"I think McDavid has set himself apart just based on the awards and the accolades he's gotten and the consistency he's had," the Pittsburgh Penguins captain told NHL.com on Wednesday. "I think it's fair to say it's an easy pick just because of that."
McDavid, 21, won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP and the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion (100 points) in 2016-17; he also won the Art Ross last season (108 points). The Edmonton Oilers captain has won the Ted Lindsay Award given to the NHL's most outstanding player in the regular season as judged by his peers, the members of the NHL Players Association, each of the past two seasons.
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Crosby, 31, said the influx of young talent in the League has produced highlight-reel moments from young skilled players like centers Auston Matthews (21) of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nathan MacKinnon (23) of the Colorado Avalanche. But it's McDavid's resume in his first three-plus seasons in the NHL that has allowed the Oilers forward to separate himself from the pack.
"There are so many different guys," Crosby said. "Matthews has emerged this year and it really looks like he's taken even another step. I think there's a lot of guys in the conversation. But it's hard to argue (McDavid). He's been really consistent. He's won scoring titles, MVPs. So yeah, that's an easy one to pick."
The hot start to the season by Matthews and McDavid has fueled intense debates in Canada about who is better. Winnipeg Jets captain Mark Scheifele gave the nod to the Edmonton forward on Tuesday.
Video: Breaking down McDavid's third goal of the season
"Obviously Auston's a great player, he's got a lot of skill and you watch him on a nightly basis, he makes a lot of really good plays," Scheifele said. "Connor McDavid has put up back-to-back 100-point seasons. He's done a lot that Matthews obviously hasn't done. Matthews is a star in this league and he's going to get better. But he's not at McDavid's level just yet."
Scheifele played with McDavid and Matthews for Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
With a four-point game in a 5-4 overtime victory against the Jets on Tuesday, McDavid set his first NHL record by scoring or assisting on each of his team's first nine goals from the start of a season. Adam Oates held the record at seven, set in 1986-87 with the Detroit Red Wings.
McDavid has nine points (four goals, five assists) in four games this season.
Matthews leads the League in points (16) and goals (10) in seven games for Toronto. He joined Mario Lemieux and Kevin Stevens (1992-93 Penguins), Mike Bossy (1984-85 New York Islanders), and Wayne Gretzky (1983-84 Oilers) as the only players to start a season with seven consecutive multi-point games.
Video: Seven consecutive multi-point games for Matthews
Crosby will face Matthews and McDavid in the coming week. Pittsburgh visits Toronto at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, TSN4, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV) before playing at Edmonton on Tuesday.
Crosby, a three-time Stanley Cup champion (2009, 2016, 2017), who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2016 and 2017, said he does not include himself in the "best player" debate, preferring to leave that to others.
"[My motivation] is always to be my best," Crosby said. "That's allowed me to be in the conversation of the guys who are considered to be the best. I think that's the way I've always looked at it. I've always wanted to get the best out of myself. Wherever that puts me, that's where its put me."
Crosby won the Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy each in 2006-07 and 2013-14, the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal scorer twice (2009-10, 2016-17), the Ted Lindsay Award three times (2006-07, 2012-13, 2013-14), and the Mark Messier Leadership Award two times (2006-07, 2009-10).
"I was fortunately able to win individual awards but that's not why I was trying to get the most out of myself," Crosby said. "I think that's just how I want to play. I know I have a certain amount of time to play the game and I want to be the best I can at it."